You know me. You know Claire and her blog. You know what to do.
Let’s talk Raw!
The hunger. Now, not just an ‘80s horror movie directed by Tony Scott. That’s what Bayley says she, Dakota Kai, and IYO SKY believe they brought back to the women’s division. A hunger to be the best and a hunger that all of the women in the locker room need. Bayley says—rightly—that the women’s division got complacent in her absence. And the next step in their takeover is Dakota & IYO fighting for the tag team championships.
Bayley was great here. She normally is, but I mention that because of one particular moment. After referring to Dakota Kai as “Dakota Sky,” Bayley pivoted and blamed the crowd for her flub. Told them she can’t think properly with them making all this noise and they should all just shut up. She took that moment and turned it into a meltdown, causing Dakota to takeover after telling Bayley to relax. It was hilarious, furthered everyone’s characters, illustrated group dynamics, and showed their chemistry. It wasn’t perfect but it shows why these three are together.
Once Alexa Bliss, Asuka, and Bianca Belair showed up, the temperature in the ring changed. The confrontation set up a potential match, as Asuka & Alexa are in the tag title tournament as well, but also a trios tag match at Clash at the Castle. Why then and not now? Well, besides the fact WWE needs a big match for this event, Bayley doesn’t believe Cleveland matters enough for a match that size. Tried and true heel tactics.
Bianca wanted static. Bayley wanted to keep control this week but Bianca wanted to lose control. A brawl broke out and made my heart happy. A big brawl setting off a show always makes me smile. Especially when it’s set up in this fashion.
Bayley, Kai, and SKY made their presence known throughout the show, appearing in a few backstage segments and flexing muscle over the other women in the division. I love that. It makes them omnipresent and shows instead of tells. WWE is great at telling us what someone’s goal is but not always great showing it. If anything, my only “complaint” is that it’s not threaded throughout the show because, this is the most interesting story on Raw at the moment. But I’m being greedy.
Speaking of running threads through the show. During a couple backstage segments, WWE showed a crashed car in the background while people gave interviews or just talked trash to one another. The first time, it was crashed with officials around the car and a couple women wrestlers. The second time, a tow truck lifted the car and cops rushed past the camera as if they were chasing someone.
Those same cops appeared at the end of the main event, but this time with someone in their custody. Or at least trying to get someone in their custody. The cops tussled with the individual, the crowd looked on, and eventually there was a quick glimpse of the person dressed in a black hoodie: Dexter Lumis!
And that was it. He left, the commentators acknowledged it but didn’t dwell, and attention turned back to the victor in the ring.
This was a tease hopefully setting up something larger. I like the execution during the show even if the actual “reveal” didn’t seem to do much for the crowd. But I’m also not sure what the desired outcome was. What I do know, however, is I’m very curious where this is headed.
At a certain point during Angelo Dawkins’ match with Seth Rollins, the ref ejected Montez Ford. Which is exactly what Seth wanted. Dawkins impressed me during this match. Not to say he doesn’t always impress, but he had an extra fire this week. Even wrestled without his shirt! Story wise, this didn’t progress anything. Seth won fair and square—thanks to a pedigree—then added insult to injury at the end with a curb stomp. But the obvious real world implication is testing Dawkins for a solo run. I don't know if his ceiling is as high as Montez—he can’t jump that high—but he held his own with one of the best. That bodes well for his future.
That’s All She Wrote
Stella and I wondered what Kevin Owens looks like under Triple H. Well, we got an emphatic answer this week. Long and short of it: KO ain’t with the BS.
Aside from one small slip on the ring steps, KO was all business. He decimated Ezekiel/Elias/Elrod as soon as the bell went ding. Then, in a nod to his past, power bombed that man on and ring apron.
And that was it. Match over. The ref called it due to Zeke’s inability to compete—rhyme intended—while Owens looked on with malice, menace, and another m word to finish off the alliteration. KO is, hopefully, done with this Zeke business and entering the next phase. Zeke even did a stretcher job, so who knows what this means for his future.
KO reminded us later that this is still the KO Show and I’m down for all of that.
Champing at the Bit
I thought Ciampa had it in the bag. I really believed the Black Heart, who dedicated his United States championship match to Harley Race, was walking out of Cleveland with that title in hand. While he didn’t get that, he did get something just as valuable: Elevation.
Bobby Lashley said he wants to put on great matches and elevate people on the roster as U.S. champ. That’s exactly what he did tonight. Lashley and Ciampa put on a hell of a fight with plenty of suspense. At times, it really looked like Ciampa might do the impossible and beat a man who looks unbeatable. Ciampa showed everything that made him the man in NXT, along with an ability to work with someone Lashley’s size. And the juxtaposition in styles was perfect for the story. Lashley is all power and high impact. Ciampa is scientific, methodical, and dastardly.
WWE didn’t forget about AJ Styles either. AJ ambushed Miz during the match. The two brawled around the ring and even through the ring—without touching Lashley or Ciampa—which took Miz out of the picture after he helped Ciampa several times during the match. Ciampa went from the guy who only survived due to Miz putting his foot on the rope or distracting Lashley, to someone who put the champ on the ropes by himself. The man even survived the Hurt Lock longer than most, refusing to tap initially but ultimately giving in because duh. There’s no shame in losing to the champ. Losing like this though? Looking really competitive and showing he belongs in a title picture? That’s huge for Ciampa.
This was just a really good bout between two guys working at a high level way beyond eye level. If you missed this match, you owe it to yourself to watch it not now but right now.
The skirmish between AJ and Miz led to a no DQ main event match. And it was fine. Maybe I was a little let down because this was the main event, but it was a perfectly fine no DQ match between two cats who don’t like each other. Ciampa interfered but his appearance didn’t keep his friend safe. AJ prevailed in a match that used kendo sticks, chairs, tables, and mild violence. The match itself felt like a half-measure. I dislike when no DQ matches don’t take full advantage of that stipulation. Go wild! Make it really violent. Like I said, it was fine, but nothing to truly write home about. And, probably worse, it wasn’t the best end to a pretty solid night of sports entertainment professional wrestling.
Me thinks this is the end of AJ and Miz’s short-lived feud, which feels appropriate too.
Cats in the Cradle
I’m a sucker for this father/son intrigue between Rey and Dominik. Last week, Raw’s final image was Edge spearing Dom and Rey tending to his fallen son while putting the pieces together. This week, Edge apologized to both men. Rey forgave his longtime friend and former tag partner. Dom though? Well, let’s just say he doesn’t believe Edge is “family.” That’s a Fast and Furious reference for anyone playing at home. Dom shoved Edge and barked on his father for taking Edge’s side.
Edge offered his help but Rey truly believed in his son. But during his match with Finn Balor, Rey walked to the ring alone. I was actually riveted. I get where Dom is coming from, I get where Rey is coming from. They’re actual human beings with feelings that go beyond cliche stuff. It helped that Finn and Rey put on a good match filled with counters, reversals, near falls, and big moves. Through all that, I thought about Dom. Where is he? Is he showing up in the third act with a knife for his father’s back? Will he realize it was just a mistake and maybe the old men are right? Edge even chased Damian Priest into the crowd, clearing the way for Dom’s return!
Well, Rhea Ripley had other plans. The Nightmare showed up with Dom draped over her shoulder like a pillow, beaten within an inch of his life. Ripped shirt, cuts and bruises on his face, and even some “blood” for good measure. Rey stopped caring about Finn because duh, and lost the match as a result. We ended with Rey, on the mat, reaching out to his bruised son, while The Judgment Day glared and did other things bad guys do.
I dug it! It’s a simple story told effectively and with some heart.
What Have You Done for Me Lately
IYO SKY & Dakota Kai flew high. These two beat Tamina & Dana Brooke in a match that...yeah, it wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful, but it was just very meh. This was the first match in WWE’s Women’s Tag champ tournament and was pretty much a cakewalk for Kai & Sky, Which sounds a lot like Kaientai.
Omos squashed a couple of hometown guys.
Which was all I planned on saying until it hit me that there’s really no need on this show for Omos. Especially if it’s pointless squashes on a show where most matches meant something.
We Can Go Blow for Blow...
This match between Chad Gable and Dolph Ziggler, too. Because everything else around it revolved around titles or established beef, this one felt hollow. Both guys are great at what they do in the ring but Ziggler is aimless now with Theory in witness protection. So what are we doing here? On the strength of no emotional investment, it gets a meh.
Raw moved this week. I barely noticed the three hours and most of the matches had purpose. We got a bunch of solid bouts and a really good one between Lashley and Ciampa. Raw also ended a couple feuds, added layers to others, and started...something..with a returning Dexter Lumis. Very solid and enjoyable show.
That’s my grade and I’m sticking to it. Your turn.